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Brian Leathley-Andrew chronicled reports of a plethora of strange craft in the late 1960s. Press cuttings at the time suggest that, in the Swinging Sixties, the truth was definitely out there – and lurking in the skies over the West Midlands.
But his work made shadowy figures in the halls of power twitchy, Brian – who now refers to himself as Lord Brian Leathley-Andrew – believes.
They were concerned, he reckons, that he’d tripped upon dark technology being developed in secret locations. Now 71 and living in Bedworth, Warwickshire, the former electrical engineer says: “Society is being watched by the Department of Them. Say hello to System X.
“Quite clearly, I had problems with phone tapping, bloody crude phone tapping. You could hear the click.
“There were too many people looking, in hindsight.”
It has been more than 50 years since Brian turned his back on the UFO bureau and his interest in Close Encounters has diminished.
“These days I’m retired,” he admits. “I struggle to find time to tie my shoelaces.”
But he’s convinced of the validity of some of the sightings, even if work was sometimes bogged down by hoaxers.
He is also adamant that Big Brother was, indeed, watching – and listening in. His personal security, even safety, he says, were compromised.
“There were a lot of mickey-takers,” he admits. “One man sent me pictures of a UFO.
“It was the lid of exactly the same handcream my wife used. The jar was there on the table in front of me.”
Half a century on, the work of Brian’s bureau lives on through the yellowed archives of our sister newspaper, The Coventry Telegraph.
On December 3, 1968, Brian publicly admitted he was a scared man. Under the banner headline “Worried UFO Man Gives Up”, he announced the organisation’s closure.
In the bombshell article, Brian alleged:
– He had been watched by a man with a glowing orange face;
– His phone cut off whenever he attempted to talk about UFOs;
– He had a phone message from a caller “speaking unusual English”.
“I have given this thing up and destroyed all the papers,” he told the Telegraph. “There have been happenings which have worried me and frightened my wife.”
For Brian, the alarm bells rang while repairing his mother’s car.
“Suddenly, I noticed a man standing by the next door garage,” he told the paper. “Nobody had been there before.
“His face was glowing orange. As I watched, the face changed to that of an old man before my eyes. Then he turned and walked away.
“You could not describe the first face in normal terms. It had eyes, nose and mouth in the proper places – but not of the shape that we associate with the human figure.”
Soon afterwards, a visit to a fellow UFO watcher in Stoke was strangely scuppered.
“All the lights in the house suddenly dimmed as though a huge electrical load had been put in the circuit,” he said.
“This will happen once in a while normally, but it kept on happening. This is most unusual.
“All this started two days after I opened my bureau. I want to publicly warn all teenage hobbyists that this is nothing to dabble in lightly.”
Judging by the flood of reports, Brian was in the right place to experience extra-terrestrial activity. At the time, the Coventry Telegraph carried page after page of sightings.
And he was not alone in being gripped by ET fever. He believes the flood of sightings coincided with experimental research by the Government. The Rolls Royce factory was nearby, he pointed out.
Coventry folk – even city policemen – were experiencing close encounters on a daily basis.
The dramatic reports can best be described as “of their time”. Frankly, some of the Coventry Telegraph reporters seem to have approached the topic with tongue firmly in cheek.
“UFO Became A Mum” (September 28, 1968): “A flying saucer which gave birth over Willenhall has been reported to the Unidentified Flying Object Information Centre of Mr Brian Leathley-Andrew.
“An eye-witness phoned Mr Leathley-Andrew to report that the mother UFO was a giant sphere-like object seen in 1953. Sparks came from the underside of the UFO which gave birth to a small sphere. The incident was seen by people in a bus queue near Willenhall traffic island.”
And there’s more…
“Flying Saucers Not A Load of Tripe” (September 24, 1968): “Flying saucers were the greatest mystery of our time and should not be dismissed as a load of tripe, Mr Wilf Grunau told Nuneaton Rotary Club.
“Mr Grunau is managing director of the Awson Motor Carriage Company which has works at Solihull and Nuneaton. Mankind, he said, had been seeing strange things in the sky since the beginning of recorded history. Mr Grunau spoke of making two sightings himself over Coventry through binoculars. He said: ‘As a result, I believe in UFOs. All I can repeat is UFOs must be piloted by beings from other worlds or else they are a natural phenomena in our atmosphere’.”
And yet more…
“Saucer Over City Say Women” (March 31, 1969): “Two Coventry women believe there may have been a flying saucer over the city during the weekend after they were woken by an ‘unearthly’ high-pitched whining accompanied by a glowing light.
“‘I have been over all the possibilities and that is the only explanation I can think of,’ said 28-year-old Patricia Hughes.”
‘Do not be too sceptical about UFOs’
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s members of the constabulary were less shy about admitting they had seen UFOs.
After all, the whole nation were closet believers.
On February 24, 1971, four bobbies gave their story to the Coventry Telegraph.
It reported: “PC Brian Hewitt of B sub-division said: ‘We were attending a job in Lythall’s Lane at 6.15am when we all saw a strange object in the sky.
“‘It was not a meteorite or anything like that. There were three single white lights in the sky over the Nuneaton area and moving at a great spread in a westerly direction towards Birmingham. They then turned northwards.
“‘They were at the height of about two miles and the lights did not belong to the same object because they were so far apart. They appeared to be in formation.
“‘They were also travelling at a tremendous speed because an aircraft flying at, say, 600mph at that height would appear to be going very slowly.
“‘I don’t know what they could have been. I don’t believe in flying saucers or anything like that and I have tried to look at it in a reasoned way. I have checked with air traffic control at Birmingham Airport and the first aircraft to land there was later than the time we saw those lights. I cannot explain it.’”
Such was the space fever that the police actually appealed for UFO sightings.
On January 4, 1972, Warwickshire police sergeant Mike Davies told the Telegraph: “Don’t be too sceptical about UFOs.
“I ask people to whom sightings are reported to listen to what is said. Then they can deduce what the object was not, and speculate what it was. I believe there is something beyond our comprehension and our technology.
“The tendency is to take a few statements and then to make a sweeping statement about what an object was. People are too prepared to dismiss the subject.”
The officer added: “I have yet to be convinced that some information about UFOs is not withheld by the authorities.
“But supposing there was a statement that we were being invaded by people from another planet, what do you think the reaction of the public would be?”
By Mike Lockley